Despite the nation’s dismal ranking for early childhood education, there are signs that it is increasing in importance for American families. Just a decade ago, only 65 percent of four-year-olds were enrolled in preschool; today that number is 78 percent. It is a subject that has become politicized as well, with President Obama championing the cause a number of times during his presidency, most notably in his 2013 State of the Union Address. After that speech, the White House offered details of the president’s plan to greatly expand the availability and quality of pre-k programs, which include:
- Expanding Early Head Start, which provides educational and health services to low-income and vulnerable children birth to three years of age;
- Developing a cooperative effort between state and federal agencies to guarantee pre-k enrollment for children at or below 200 percent of the poverty line;
- Build a corps of pre-k teachers that have the same level of credentials as those that teach K-12 students;
- Extending the Nurse Family Partnership Program, which provides home visits from nurses to low-income families. Nurses help promote health and positive parenting strategies from the child’s birth through their second birthday.
Many state legislatures have enacted sweeping pre-k programs with great success – Georgia and Oklahoma among them. But the oddity of many state-based pre-k programs is that their success is far higher in states that generally have poorer performing public schools. Additionally, support for pre-k education seems to be much more robust in Republican-leaning states, especially those in the Deep South like Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina. However, despite this, a recent poll by Grow America Stronger shows that an overwhelming majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents support early childhood education. In fact, 71 percent of voters want expanded public education for preschoolers.
Success in Georgia, Oklahoma
Georgia has the oldest universal pre-k program in the nation. Open to all four-year-olds in the state, it is funded entirely by the Georgia lottery. Without being a tax burden on the state’s residents, the . . . read more